Fractions: Classroom to Real World

Have you ever had a student ask... "When am I ever going to use this?"  Early in my teaching career this question would drive me crazy!  It usually was asked by a student who was capable of doing whatever we were learning, but simply didn't feel like actually doing the work.  This question now makes me realize I have not fully been doing my job as a math teacher...  There should never be a time when a student does not understand the purpose or application behind what they are learning!  When students understand when they would actually use the content they are learning, their motivation is immediately boosted.  Not only do students become more motivated in learning the content, but they are also challenged to apply (Bloom's Taxonomy, anyone?) the content which typically requires more critical thinking.  This is why there has been such a big push for "real world connections" in recent years.  As math teachers, we must take our math instruction from classroom use to real world use and fractions is the perfect place to start!

After visiting the Ron Clark Academy a few years ago, I was totally inspired to use classroom makeovers as a way to engage my students even further in our real world math projects!  As our fraction unit comes to a close, I wanted to share some pictures of all the fun!

We hosted a cooking show to share our delicious dessert recipe with the world! Students got to "bake" and apply their skills adding and subtracting fractions to some real life cooking situations!  I simply threw some plastic table cloths on the tables, brought in cooking utensils, and played some bakery music and we were good to go!  Even though the floor was covered in powdered sugar at the end of the day, it was worth it!

The math cafe was under construction while we used our skills multiplying fractions to build model dog houses!  I added caution tape to every place I could think of around the classroom, put out some safety cones, and added all sorts of construction-like centerpieces to the tables!  I even found an hour long video on YouTube of a construction site (what non-teacher would ever use this?!).  I threw on a pair of safety googles and a reflective safety vest to really get into the construction spirit! :)

Despite the cold weather, we ran our own lemonade stands in the classroom to help us practice dividing fractions!  I reused the plastic table cloths, let students design lemonade stand signs, and brought in yummy treats for them to have at their lemonade stand!  I played some Jack Johnson in the background as kids worked because it just made me think of warm weather (I was impressed that several students actually knew who Jack Johnson was!).  This was the easiest classroom makeover and the kids had lots of fun!

We still have our fraction review project, which is a picnic theme, that we will do some time this week, and then it's off to our next unit!  I don't makeover my classroom for every project we do, because honestly my students are engaged with the real world scenarios of the projects anyways!  But, I do believe the classroom makeovers bring an element of surprise and joy to my students' faces that is just too addicting to resist! :)

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